In 1987, unassuming sea kayaker Ed Gillet left Monterey, California, on what he later called “the most difficult trip I could conceive of surviving”—attempting to paddle solo and unsupported from California to Hawaii. More than 2,200 miles and 63 days later, after surviving on little more than toothpaste during his final days, he succeeded, landing in Maui.
Adventurer RW Hand, 57, is hot on his heels in attempting to replicate the feat, which hasn’t been done since. Twice he’s tried, and twice now he’s failed.
According to Canoe & Kayak magazine, Hand, paddling a fully loaded 22-foot stock Necky Nootka Plus tandem sea kayak, ended his second Hawaii crossing attempt late Tuesday, June 10, after a Coast Guard helicopter spotted him 85 miles off the California coastline. Uninjured but fatigued from 12 days of paddling in storm conditions, and disoriented due to electronic navigation equipment failure, Hand received a ride to Santa Barbara from the Coast Guard.
C&K reports that David White, Hand’s friend and land support, alerted the Coast Guard after receiving a message from Hand’s two-way satellite communicator on June 7 indicating that his deck-mounted solar-charging system failed to charge his electronic power system and battery-powered GPS. Hand told C&K that he took “a beating every day” and that once he made the decision to turn around, he spent three days and two nights paddling straight, with no sleep, in stormy waters. The adverse conditions prevented Hand from reaching Gillet’s crux of the more favorable southern latitudes at 30 degrees north and 130 degrees west.
“I was getting beat to death, especially at night,” Hand told C&K.
While he admitted that he was disappointed, Hand said that he is planning another attempt next summer. “It’s a doable thing,” he told C&K. “I just picked the wrong year.”
Hand’s first attempt to emulate Gillet’s crossing came on June 8, 2013, when Hand and Clay Biles launched two kayaks from near the same spot. They planned to stick together while paddling separate kayaks, but damaged their boats after just eight hours in the pounding swell and aborted the mission.
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